(WASHINGTON) — Is Iran’s army a terrorist organization?
Chuck Hagel, the president’s nominee for secretary of defense, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., don’t agree.
As the Bush administration weighed whether to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, the Senate voted on the issue in September 2007, urging the administration to apply that label. Graham voted “yes,” along with nearly every other Republican. Hagel voted “no,” along with 21 other senators, all but one of them Democrats. The only GOP senator to side with Hagel was Richard Lugar, R-Ind., then the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
On Thursday Graham and Hagel sparred over the question at Hagel’s confirmation hearing, when Hagel appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee as President Obama’s nominee to become the next secretary of defense.
Graham asked Hagel whether he would support the measure if it came up again.
“I would want to know from the president what they were doing, but again…,” Hagel said before Graham cut him off.
“You read the paper, you watch TV, you got any doubt about what they’re doing? They’re expanding terrorism, they’re trying to intimidate their own people, they’re the instrument of the theocracy to oppress their own people, and they’re the biggest supporter of the regime to keep them in power so they [can] get a nuclear weapon,” Graham retorted.
“Times change, I recognize that, and yes, I would reconsider,” Hagel said, after being cut off again.
The Revolutionary Guard Corps, unlike most terrorist organizations on the State Department’s list, is more thoroughly integrated into Iran’s political and societal structure, with senior officers serving in government positions.
Hagel maintains that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is not a terrorist group, but rather that Iran is a “state sponsor of terrorism” and that the Guard Corps is part of that government.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Evan McKirdy, Tim Hume and James Masters, CNN
Angela Dewan, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN